Walsh Announces City Programs, and Initiatives, Provides COVID-19 Update

Mayor Walsh made several announcements at his press conference on July 14, one day after Step One of Phase Three of the state’s reopening plan took effect in the City.

“Right now, the US is the worst place it’s ever been in dealing with the pandemic where our numbers are,” Walsh said. “Here in Boston and in Massachusetts, we need to do everything we can to avoid going down that path.”

He said that the first few weeks of Phase Three “are very critical,” and emphasized the importance of continuing to wear a face covering, social distancing, and washing your hands.

City Hall remains open to the public on Tuesdays and Fridays, and Walsh said on July 10 that the City is “formulating a plan to increase access to services,” but “despite the state guidelines…we will not be hosting public or private meetings in City Hall or any other City building at this point.” He said that online meetings will continue to ensure that residents have their voices heard.

On Tuesday, Walsh announced that beginning on July 23, City Hall will also be open for in-person services on Thursdays, for a total of three days a week that they will be open to the public. All safety measures will still be in place, and appointments will still need to be made to come to City Hall. To make an appointment

Last week, Walsh also talked about the importance of the availability of parks and open space this summer as the City continues to fight COVID-19.

“I believe and we believe in the City that parks are essential to the health and wellbeing of the residents in every single one of our neighborhoods,” he said. “We remain the number one city in the country for access to parks.”

In Phase Two, City playgrounds and splashpads reopened “with appropriate safety and signage,” Walsh said, and beginning on July 13, permitting resumed for “low and moderate contact sports and other events.”

While high contact sports such as basketball, football, and lacrosse are not allowed until Step Two of Phase Three, participants in those sports are permitted to conduct skill practice.

Outdoor events in the City are limited to 50 people, which is half of what the state allows. “People will be required to follow guidelines of face coverings and social distancing,” Walsh added.

Boston Police Reform Task Force

Walsh previously announced the Boston Police Reform Task Force, headed by former US Associate Attorney General Wayne Budd and made up of black and brown community leaders, civil rights leaders, and activists.

“Starting next week, the task force will be holding online listening sessions on key issues,” Walsh said on Tuesday, wher residents can share their “experiences, beliefs, and suggestions.”

More details on the times, dates, and content for the sessions will be available this week.

Walsh also said that he “reaffirms” his “pledge to act on the recommendations of this board as informed by the community.”

Youth Employment

On July 14, Walsh announced updates to the youth summer job program offered by the City.

With fewer employers Abel to offer in-person jobs for youth, the City has increased funding for the youth summer job program from $8 million to $12 million, as well as increased outreach and support for youth, to “offer an opportunity to every young person in the City who wants it.”

This includes the creation of a program called Learn and Earn Career Development Internships, which pays high school and college students to take college level courses and leave with actual college credit, experience, and financial earnings.

The program, which began on July 13, has more than 500 young people enrolled in 26 different classes.

Food Truck Initiative

This Friday will mark the start of a new summer food truck initiative in the City, Walsh said, where food trucks will make their way into neighborhoods across the city for the first time ever.

Walsh said that with food trucks offering a “natural outdoor dining experience,” they are a great way for people to support local businesses in a safe way.

“We want people to support them,” Walsh said. “Historically, food trucks have been associated with downtown locations and special events,” but this year they will be parked in 23 sites across the City in places like city parks and playgrounds, with the potential for more sites.

For more details about the food truck initiative, visit boston.gov.reopening.

Plastic Bags

In March, the City of Boston temporarily suspended the ban on plastic bags and the   five cent fee for paper bags to allow for “more flexibility during a very difficult time,” Walsh said.

“Barring and changes in circumstances, the ban on plastic bags and the five cent fee will remain suspended until September 30 in the City of Boston,” Walsh announced on July 14.

He added that the Boston Public Health Commission and other agencies have said that reusable bags are safe, and “people should feel free to bring them to the store.”

BPL and BCYF Updates

The Boston Public Library (BPL) branches remain closed to the public, but BPL to Go, the online checkout system for pickup, has been popular, the mayor reported. He said that 1.4 million online items have been checked out, and there have been 31,000 new library card sign-ups.

As of July 13, BPL to Go will be available at a total of 16 branches, “with more branches coming soon,” Walsh said.

Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF) have been closed since March except for free meal distributions. Walsh said the City has “been working hard to make sure the programming is available.”

Virtual teen programs have started, and online registration for both in-person and virtual programs for children ages seven and older began on July 10.

“As more programs are finalized, we’re going to be adding them,” the Mayor said. “All will be operated in accordance with public health guidelines.”

Other Updates

Walsh said that “we’re moving forward with caution because we’re seeing what’s happening in other states when they rush. “We need to continue moving forward, supporting the needs of the communities and investing in our communities,” including “advancing equity and the quality of life in our City throughout this pandemic.

Walsh also addressed the ongoing concern of fireworks in the City, as they are still going off in many neighborhoods.

He said that the fireworks “continue to be a safety and a quality of life concern in our neighborhoods,” and they are “causing trauma, stress, and sleeplessness” for many residents. They are also a fire and safety risk. Walsh talked about a one year old boy who was in the hospital “with serious injuries to his hands and body,” calling the situation “entirely preventable.”

Walsh has created a task force whose job it is to come up with ways to address this issue in the neighborhoods.

 “It’s incumbent upon all of us to let those people it’s time to stop,” he said. “Fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts. They can’t be carried over state lines.”

Walsh said that concerned residents can anonymously call the CrimeStoppers hotline or text the word TIPS to 27463.

“My message to people on the fireworks is ‘it’s time to stop,’” Walsh said.

Baker Update

Governor Charlie Baker held a press conference on July 13, where he gave an update on COVID-19 statistics in the state, as well as announced a new process for the public to report business who are not complying with the state’s health and safety guidelines.

Baker said on Monday that about 1.2 million COVID-19 tests have been administered so far, and the seven day average positive test rate “remains at about 1.7 percent,” which he said is a drop of about 94 percent since mid-April.

Currently, there are 583 patients hospitalized statewide for COVID-19, he said.

The governor urged residents to continue wearing face coverings, hand washing, and staying home if they feel sick.

“COVID is not going to take the summer off,” Baker said. “Our success on the reopening piece will be driven in many ways by the workforce safety standards. We’re grateful that thousands of businesses and organizations are doing their part…”

A new website, mass.gov/complaince, has been launched for the public and employees of businesses to report non-compliance with the state’s mandatory health and safety guidelines.

“Investigations can result in enforcement measures if violations are discovered,” Baker said. “We are deeply grateful for the cooperation of our employer community and many others. We hope this tool can promote accountability as we reopen Massachusetts.”

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